Saturday, July 12, 2008


So, the full name is Madeline Anna Brazelton. We've always liked the first name, though Des is more obsessed over it nowadays with the drama in her friend Matt's life right now. Georgianna is my grandmother's first name - she goes by Georgi, but we like the Anna part more. So, Madeline Anna it is.

On Thursday morning Des repeated a pattern that's now become almost familiar - she awoke to early morning contractions that were light and randomly spaced out. We weren't sure if it was The Day, as we'd been having some issues around the due date. The first guess at a due date (and it was a guess, as we didn't have much information to go on) was July 17th. Later in the pregnancy, the date was switched to June 30th. I don't recall why, exactly, but June 30th quickly became the real date. The 30th came and went with no baby in sight, so on the 9th we had decided to get an ultrasound scheduled for the following day to make sure the baby was okay.

In any case, the ultrasound was not to be. Early morning contractions started on the 10th, appearing every 15 to 30 minutes. I went to my x-ray and orthopoedic appointment at around 8:30, and Des started to clean the house. We didn't know when labor would start, but we were pretty sure it was going to be some time that day. We've learned that until the real thing starts, there's no point in getting too wound up about things.

By noon the contractions had begun to hit every 15 minutes. We let our midwife, Aly, know that things were starting to take off, notified grandma Patty that the girls would have to be picked up that night, then waited. The contractions stopped suddenly just before 1 PM (Des was not happy), so the girls and I went upstairs for a nap. Des woke me up at 2 PM; the contractions were back, harder than ever, and she had called Aly to come over.

I called our Doula, Autumn (yes, the doula who delivered Penelope), and went to work getting the birth room ready. The rest of the labor followed with clockwork precision. From 2 to 3 PM the contractions were steady first at 15 minutes, then 10 minutes between contractions. From 3 until 4 PM the contractions had dropped to every five minutes, and Des had started to exhibit the usual signs of labor pain. We started to fill the pool, as it takes about an hour to fill through our little shower attachment, and the midwives began to setup their various kits. Throughout it all the baby kicked and squirmed around, her heartbeat solid and with no signs of stress.

At 4 PM the contractions had begun to hit every four minutes, so Des got into the warm pool. There wasn't much to do at this point but wait and keep her hydrated. The midwives would occassionally check the fetal heartrate using a Doptone (stupid me, I was surprised to find that it worked under water), but otherwise sat out in the hall. Amelie and Penelope would wander upstairs every now and then to visit mom, but spent most of their time staring in awe at the Magic of the Pegasus in the living room.

At about 4:40 the first phase of labor was coming to an end. Des began to have much stronger contractions, and everyone scrambled to get into their postions. In just ten minutes Des had the urge to push, and after two pushes her water broke. We yelled for the girls to come upstairs to watch, and Aly began to tell Des to stop pushing - the baby was already starting to crown, and pushing the baby out too fast could have some unhappy side effects. The girls got upstairs just in time, peering over the side of the pool and asking questions (Penelope's favorite was, "Where's the baby?").

At 4:56 Madeline was born. Amelie and Penelope were jumping up and down cheering, I think I was nearly crying, and Des had a dazed look on her face. I don't think she had any idea the birth would go so fast. She settled back into the pool, and Aly gave her the baby. Madeline started to breathe almost immediately, getting us past one of the last scary parts of a birth. A few minutes later, Penelope notified me that it was time to watch the movie again. Kids just aren't impressed by much these days.

Soon the house was full - Jessica arrived just a few minutes after Madeline was born, and shortly after we were visited by Des' mother and sister and several of our neighbors. While momma and baby went through their postbirth paces (it takes an hour or two for a new mother's body to shed the various devices it uses in the pregnancy), the rest of us visited one by one. Aly and Kate continued to check vitals, document the baby's health and help Des through post labor contractions.

By 8 PM the house was beginning to empty. Amelie and Penelope left with their grandmother to stay for a couple of nights, and the midwives and doula left as soon as they had cleaned everything up. Our neighbors Alex and Sylvia (with their own little one, Zoe) stuck around for another hour or so, but by 9 PM the house was empty.

Des, Madeline and I got into bed, opened a pint of chocolate gelato her mother had gotten for us that evening, and watched an episode of Six Feet Under. By 9:30 Des was falling asleep, so I shut the laptop, climbed into my recliner, and turned out the light. Definitely a busy day.

Desiree notes that this was her easiest labor by far; aside from the very last pushes (she only pushed about a half dozen times), the pain level was nothing like her previous two pregnancies. Just after Madeline was born she even commented with a bit of wonder in her voice, "That was easy." It seems a shame to waste such an obvious talent for baby making, but this will be our last child. As many luminaries in other fields have found, it's best to go out while you're on top of your game.

The numbers, which are important to some people for some reason, are as follows:
Weight: 8lbs, 4oz
Length: 20 inches
Madeline was estimated to be 39 weeks old, which validates the first due date. All of that anxiety for nothing...

Thursday, July 10, 2008


8lbs, 4oz, 20 inches of pure love. Details tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I thought y'all would enjoy seeing one of our little helpers in action. They spend most of their time in back either turning soil into mud or eating all of our strawberries, but I love that they love to be outside. I do have to train Amelie on how to treat weeds that I pull - the last time I gave her a plant to toss in the compost bin, she carefully took it to another part of the lawn, dug a hole, planted it and watered it. It's the most pampered clover plant in all the world, I'd wager.

The rain last night seems to have beaten up on some of the garden; many of the onions have fallen (though that may just mean they're getting ready to be harvested) and the potatoes are suddenly acting top heavy. I'm not too concerned, as everything seems to be green and healthy, but the first decent rainfall in a month turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. On the plus side, the corn has decided it's on steroids, and I'm now finding volunteer corn near the potatoes. I had no idea such a thing even existed, and along with this discovery I'm now realizing that most of the weeds I've been pulling from the potato patch were corn. Freaky. I'm used to pulling the billions of volunteer tomato, morning glory, squash, zucchini and herb plants, but this is a new one. Next year I might just leave our corn rows alone to see what jumps up out of them.

Friday, July 4, 2008


It looks more like a birthday cake that Shrek would like, but it's really my mushroom growing kit. Another Father's Day gift (seriously, is my wife not the best?), this is turning out to be another interesting experiment. The company she got the kit from, Fungi Perfecti, sends out a spore-inoculated block of sawdust in a box. You soak it in water, keep it moist using a sprayer, and in a few days mushrooms start to appear. It's not the most attractive cube o' food ever, but if all goes well we'll have a large crop of shiitakes to work with. The best part: the cube continues to fruit for weeks, even months. It has to go dormant for a couple of weeks between fruiting, but we should have a source of mushrooms into the fall.

I'm so impressed with results of this kit that I'm contemplating an outdoor kit for next spring. I would just have to find a hardwood stump (sadly an easy task with all of the trees being felled by the city this year), drill a bunch of holes in it, and drive inoculated dowels into the holes. It can take a year for the first flush of mushrooms to appear, but the wait is part of what makes gardening so much fun.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Des got me a cheese making kit for Father's Day, and we just got around to making some cheese from it. The process is slightly less arcane than it sounds, as the kind of cheese we made - mozzarella - is the second-simplest cheese in the world (ricotta is #1 by my estimation). For those curious about the steps, they are:
  1. Heat milk with a tiny amount of citric acid to 88F.
  2. Add a tiny amount of a natural enzyme, rennet, to the warm milk.
  3. The rennet performs a minor chemical transmogrification, gelling the milk into something that resembles a loose custard. You wait a few minutes while this occurs.
  4. The custard is just milk solids suspended in a yellow fluid called whey. You drain off as much of the whey as you can. This is tricky but it turns out a simple wire strainer (and some patience) works great.
  5. You now have a big bowl of ricotta. You could stop here, but if you want mozzarella, you heat the results in a 185F water bath. You dunk chunks of the prenatal cheese in the water, getting it hot enough to melt. Then you knead the hot cheese, developing the texture and forcing out the remaining liquid.
  6. Put the cheese in ice water to cool. This is important if you want the cheese to maintain its shape.
There isn't much to it, but I will say that we probably won't be making all of our own cheeses in the near future. For one, it's a messy chore, consuming several pots, bowls and spoons very quickly. It also takes a fair amount of time; it was about 1/2 hour for our first try. Finally, a gallon of milk, which weighs about seven pounds, turns into a despair-inducing 3/4 pound of cheese. I'm sure the math is the same for cheese makers all over the world, but organic milk ain't cheap and watching most of it go down the drain is disconcerting. Mozzarella has a very high water content, so I'm interested to see what tiny percentage of milk is kept in harder cheeses like cheddar.

Our next stop is ricotta. We've already been there, but more as a rest stop on the way to its more advanced sibling. I'm willing to try other cheeses if anyone is particularly interested in other varieties.


One morning last week, I noticed something interesting about our corn. It had funneled the dew from the air into the conical vase the leaves made, creating little oasis (is oasis plural for oasis?) in the plants. It seems a little too convenient to be an accident, but I'm wondering how the plants can use the water they're holding. I know leaves can take in a small amount of water, but it seems unlikely they can use everything they collect. Maybe they don't have to?

The Enki project is going forward. I'm trying two plants: Genovese Basil (our Italian neighbor noted that he cannot find it in the greenhouses, so maybe we'll have something for him by the end of the season) and a viola. The viola is mostly to see if there's an effect on flower production. The pots are all filled with amended soil in our back yard, and the ones with blue tape get the Science Water treatment.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I have some free time, and the garden is one of the few things appropriate to my challenge level. As such, I've been doing some obsessing over things. On the plus side I have the time to actually garden for the first time in my life, but on the down side there are so few outlets for my technology fetish in this field. Sure, there are the usual things like water timers (thanks Patty!) and hoses made from nanomaterials or whatever marketing ploy they have to use to sell more hoses, but there isn't much cutting edge about putting seeds in the dirt and watering them. - cue cheesy announcer voice - That is, until now!

I found this guy at Bachmans and was instantly captivated. It's a watering can that has a twist - if you fill it full of water and plug it in, it will super oxygenate the water. The claim is over 150% oxygen saturation of the water (if you've made rock candy you know the principle) and a resulting bump to plant growth. Everyone knows that plants create oxygen, but they also consume it like most every other living organism. More oxygen means more growth, and more oxygen in the water source means that oxygen poor soil (which is almost all of it) isn't as much of a hindrance.

The Enki device works through electrolysis, which simply means that it uses an electrical current to separate the hydrogen and oxygen of the water. The result is what appears to be billions of little bubbles rising up from the bottom of the watering can; those are the oxygen and presumably hydrogen bubbles rising to the surface. It takes about four minutes for the device to be ready.

It sounds totally scientific, so I bought it. I'm not a fan of science - too much hard work - but I do love scientific lingo. I also like to experiment, so I'm thinking that a trial is in order. I'm thinking of starting up two pots, each with the exact same soil and each with a seed from the same packet. Put them in the same location, and use different water sources. Not much to it, and it would be fun to see if I just wasted $80 or not. I'll post the results here as time goes on.

Any suggestions on a plant to grow?